Scenes of Europe, breath of Africa

THE THREE CITIES, authentic slice of life

The Three Cities is a collective description of the three fortified cities of Vittoriosa (Maltese name: Birgu), Senglea (Maltese name: Isla), and Cospicua (Maltese name: Bormla). The oldest of the Three Cities is Birgu, which has existed since the Middle Ages. The other two cities, Senglea and Cospicua, were both founded by the Order of Saint John in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Three Cities offer an intriguing insight into Malta and its history. They can rightly claim to be the cradle of Maltese history, as they have provided a home and fortress to almost every group of race who have settled on the Islands for more than one thousand years. Their harbour inlets have been in use since Phoenician times: the docks have always provided a living for local people but also left them vulnerable when Malta’s rulers were at war. As the first home to the Knights of St. John, the Cities’ palaces, churches, forts and bastions are far older than Valletta’s. The Three Cities offer an interesting overview of Malta and its history but also provide an authentic slice of the archipelago’s life as well as its maritime destiny.

The city of Senglea, Civitas Invicta

The city of Senglea is also called Civitas Invicta, the invincible city because it managed to resist the Ottoman invasion of the Great Siege of 1565. It was named Senglea after the grandmaster who built it – Claude De La Sengle. The Maltese often use its former name l-Isla, meaning island or peninsula. Senglea is known for its venerated statue of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, found in the oratory of the Basilica dedicated to the birth of the Virgin Mary.  Senglea is also world-renowned for the Gardjola gardens which offers a superb view of Valletta. On the bastion here, you will find the famous stone watchtower used as a look-out for those protecting the entrance to the Grand Harbour. Note its  sculptured eye and ear (signs of vigilance).

From The Snop House Senglea

  • Walk down to the water’s edge: the Senglea Promenade boasts some of the island’s most delicious seafood restaurants.
  • Cross the pedestrian bridge to Birgu (Vittoriosa) near the restored N°1 Dock and board a taxi-boat or the ferry to cross the Grand Harbour to Valetta (Unesco world heritage site).
  • A short car-ride into the center of Paola takes you to the most remarkable megalithic underground temple: the Hypogeum (Unesco world heritage site).